This essay is part of my project for my Tzovah (first-level) initiation with the Hebrew Priestess Institute. The project I have been working on for the past year and 1/2 is to develop seasonal seders. The physical deliverable I will present to the directors of the program and my sisters in January will be the first seder, in what I hope will be an on-going and life-long project: Seders for all Seasons .
When I began working on my project for my Tzovah initiation for the Hebrew Priestess Institute (Kohenet), my intent was to complete seven seders in two years. As my first seder for Passover took nearly two years to complete the first edition, I’m really not sure why I thought I’d ever get through so many. In the end, the process led me to begin with Tu B’Shevat and discover what may be a project that will last a lifetime.
Part of my work, I’ve realized in the past few years, is helping others just connect with the next step. For so many, modern synagogue services do not provide the connection with community, history, or even God that people are seeking. And so they turn away. This is due to many factors. Among them is a lack of education about the service structure or a knowledge of Hebrew. Judaism requires knowledge and active effort in all of its forms. My hope is that by providing alternatives, such as a seder ritual, people will begin to bridge that gap by finding enough at any level of knowledge to enable them to participate, and to pique their curiosity to learn more. Many of the elements of a traditional Passover seder are included to inspire “wonder” in children. Now we need to inspire wonder in both children and adults. This isn’t about dumbing things down. It’s about providing the right level of detail and the ability to grow within a framework.
Earth-based Judaism is about recovering the flow of natural cycles that Judaism does honor — we’ve just forgotten it. The focus in the past two-thousand years has moved far from the agrarian and tribal roots; mostly out of necessity. We have the opportunity to recover and reinvent this tradition. These seders will explore and honor both the rich traditions of centuries of Judaism and that holiday’s overall place in the wheel of the year. To do this, I will focus specifically on the cycle of the seasons of the North-eastern section of the United States because that is where I live. However, someone in Europe, Asia, Africa, Israel or even the California will have different seasonal cycles. I will also do my best to include the ability to explore how to honor the Shekhinah in her presence in your world.
This leads to one of my more “heretical” view points that will infuse the seders. I reject the myth of the exile of Shekhinah. I believe the presence of God to be far more resilient than that myth allows. What has been revealed to me, the knowledge that I have received, is that Shekhinah was released to infuse the world when The Temple fell. Now, no matter where we are, we can reach out to her. We can give offerings. We can feel The Presence in everything around us. That is something to honor and cherish. And so honoring the sense of place in which we each live is a crucial part of the experience of the Seders for all Seasons project. Where we live now, deserves to be honored as well as our ancestral, spiritual homeland.
The unifying factor of all the seders I create will be the use of fours. (Dalet -ד ), which might be expressed in four cups, four dishes, four parts. The fours will represent the four elements, four seasons, four directions, four kinds of beings, four winds, four mothers, and four phases of the moon. This was chosen in part, as the four cups of wine and four questions are such distinct and recognizable parts of Passover seder. Other than that each will be as unique as the holiday itself.
I also hope that these will be greatly influenced by the wider community. I hope that anyone who choses to use one or more of these seders will share their experience and any choices they made to ensure that their natural world and history were honored. I hope you will join me on this journey, either by making use of these seders or allowing this idea to inspire you to learn more and create your own rituals. If Judaism is to survive, and I believe that it is worth saving, we must remember that it is a growing and living tree. There are as many branches and off-shoots as there are deep and needed roots. She can support us all, but we each must own the responsibility of doing what we can to support her. I can do this.
I’ll be posting the Tu B’Shevat Seder just after the first of the year for anyone who may wish to use it.